2022 - September - Gazette - The Work of a Funeral Director
The Work of a Funeral Director
I had the honor and privilege of traveling around Pennsylvania for two weeks this September making presentations to funeral directors at the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association (PFDA) District Meetings. The meetings were in eight different locations, attended by over 600 people and were a powerful experience for me.
I am continually in awe of funeral directors and their work, and my recent time with them only strengthened that feeling. For many of the funeral directors I’ve met, their work is a “calling.” They’re passionate about it, it’s who they are and it’s a way of life. Many of them work in the business for decades, continue beyond typical retirement age and renew their licenses even after they do retire.
Unless you have the opportunity to spend time with funeral directors and their work, you likely don’t know everything they do. Many of us would rather not think about it anyway – we are a death avoidant culture. And funeral directors know this so they often won’t volunteer details quickly. Several have shared stories with me about conversations they’ve had in social gatherings – the talking stops and people disperse when their profession comes up.
But the type of work they do has been around since the beginning of recorded time. The Greek word for “funeral” comes from a verb which means to take care of or attend to someone. That’s what funeral directors do, they attend to and care for the deceased and those who remain. And in Pennsylvania, many of them do this through small locally owned funeral homes with few staff members.
Funeral work is not easy. Funeral directors are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’re challenged physically. They’re coordinating events with many logistical pieces. They’re exposed to sad stories and trauma. And they’re sometimes on the receiving end of grief’s accompanying anger.
Even so, the funeral directors I know remain committed to and appreciative of their work. Because of what they do and who they are, they’ve learned to pay attention to what matters most in their own lives and live them fully. They have a sense of humor. They adapt to an ever-changing world and industry. And they end each day knowing they cared for others at difficult times.
I’m in awe of this work because I know the difference it makes. As a celebrant and end-of-life doula, I companion people around death and I hear firsthand how funeral directors have made a positive impact on individuals’ healing journeys. From the peace family members felt being able to view their loved one following a tragic accident, to the comfort a young couple felt handing their stillborn son to someone they knew cared, the encounters are profound.
F. Glenn Fleming, the supervisor and funeral director with Koch Funeral Home, believes strongly that his work is not only about caring for and memorializing the deceased but also about helping families begin their lives without their loved ones in a healthy way. To that end, we offer the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program with a variety of options. Upcoming gatherings include:
- Monday’s Moments Virtual Gathering “Harvesting Your Thoughts” on Monday, October 3 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m..
- Grief Healing Circle on Wednesday, October 12 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m..
- Death Café Virtual Gathering on Monday, October 17 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m..
- Monday’s Moments In-Person Gathering on Monday, October 17 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at Sunset Park, 850 McKee Street, State College.
- A Walk with Grief, Tuesdays, October 4 through October 25 from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. at Local Parks.
- Footprints in the Field - Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Ceremony on Wednesday, October 5 at 6:00 p.m. at Footprints in the Field, Calvary Harvest Fields, 150 Harvest Fields Drive, Boalsburg.
- Footprints in the Field - Grief & Loss Support Program Virtual Gatherings on Thursdays, October 13 through November 17 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m..
For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.